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South Jersey officials react to Kamala Harris as pick for Biden's VP
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South Jersey officials react to Kamala Harris as pick for Biden's VP

Kamala Harris in Atlantic City

U.S. Sen. and presidential candidate Kamala Harris speaks at the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity leadership conference at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City in July 2019.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris is “an outstanding person,” experienced and “tough as nails,” some South Jersey officials said Wednesday.

“I’m so happy to hear about Kamala Harris,” said Kaleem Shabazz, president of the Atlantic City NAACP. “Although the NAACP does not endorse candidates, we encourage people to vote. And Kamala Harris, Sen. Harris, is very definitely an outstanding person in this country. She’s one of the few African American senators, U.S. senators.”

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced Harris as his running mate Tuesday, making her the first Black woman on a major party’s presidential ticket and the first time a person of Asian descent is on the presidential ticket. Harris was born to a Jamaican father and Indian mother.

While Harris’ selection has largely been applauded among the Democratic Party and voters, some have raised concerns. She joins the ticket at a time of immense racial tensions and crises in the nation. The new coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected Black Americans and other people of color. Protests against systemic racism and brutality are top of mind for potential voters.

And Harris’ record as California attorney general and district attorney in San Francisco could make it difficult for Biden to galvanize support among younger Black and Latino voters.

“Oh my goodness,” Shabazz said Tuesday when he heard Harris was picked while speaking with producer Yolanda N. Melville on a segment of “NAACP Speaks” on radio station WEHA-FM 88.7.

Shabazz also serves as a city councilman, representing the 3rd Ward, which covers parts of the resort’s Ducktown, Westside and downtown neighborhoods.

Harris spoke in the city last July during the Leadership Conference of Omega Psi Phi at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City.

Then a presidential candidate, Harris focused on her plan to close the racial wealth gap and criticized President Donald Trump, questioning his 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” by asking “Again for who?”

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She said they must “successfully prosecute the case against another four years of Donald Trump in the White House,” adding there is “quite a rap sheet on which we can base that prosecution.”

Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr. said Wednesday morning it’s a “major moment” for the Democratic Party.

“It’s a major moment for African Americans, Asians — the diversity that (Harris) brings to the ticket as a double minority is fascinating,” Small said. “She has a lot of experience, and considering what’s going on in the world today with race relations, I think this is a major step forward, and I’m excited to be on the ticket with them.”

Small, a Democrat, is vying to keep his seat as the resort’s mayor in the upcoming election. He’s going up against Republican candidate Thomas Forkin.

Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Michael Suleiman called it an “excellent pick.”

“I think for a lot of folks who are descended from immigrants, such as myself, it’s a big deal that we have that diversity on the ticket,” Suleiman said during a phone interview Wednesday, calling Harris “tough as nails.”

The country needs someone tough, he said, and cited her work in law enforcement as a benefit.

“I’m really excited,” he said. “I think it was a tremendous pick.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Staff Writer

My beat is public safety, following police and crime. I started in January 2018 here at the Press covering Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. Before that, I worked at the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., covering crime and writing obituaries.

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